crashes in Nigeria are like coming of age ceremonies, where the attendees air
their closets, stride their wares, get immolated and conclude the lessons of
the day by wrapping up and behaving like it never happened. After the Dana
disaster that has claimed the lives of tens of our fellow citizens, if history
were to repeat itself we can guarantee nothing will come of it. Relatives will
wail, government will make empty promises and we the citizens will forget!
disasters are preventable, and should not happen. Unlike road, the air is not
congested and is often plied by professionals with thousands of hours logged in
training. Before aircraft take to the air for one to two hour trips, they are
normally subjected to rigorous checks that declare them air worthy. Under
normal circumstances, only a rare incident of once in hundred-year weather
condition should even be capable of disrupting normal take off and landing of
aircrafts; but not in an air of error: the type that whiffs the aviation corridors of
three relative factors in play when aircraft accidents become common in any
clime; these are the prevention, the reaction and the deterrence factors in
place in such environment.
about prevention, the reasons why the Dana air crash occurred may not be self
evident directly at the moment but the chain of incidents that led to it are
clear. First is the age of aircrafts in the Nigerian airspace. A
recent list compiled by a blogger, revealed up to 40 years old planes (Kabo
Airlines) are being flown in Nigeria! Most airlines have tokunboh airplanes
flying upwards of twenty years and coming with the risk of mechanical failures.
situation is directly linked to an inept regulatory system that allows these
airlines to purchase and utilize these planes (with the NCAA
director now rationalizing the 22 years old age limit for aircrafts flying
our space, commercially). Where government regulation has failed, it is time
for the market to put companies flying old aircrafts out of business, and this
is why the list now circulating is very important. Beyond regulation though is
the capital adequacy and competition issues confronted by the airline industry.
the liberalization of the fledgling sector in retrospect is now looking like a
terrible error. Even in better developed climes, the airline industry was
heavily regulated like a utility until recently when their financial and
manufacturing sector could handle the heavy capitalization required for
efficient operators. It will be worthwhile for our economic planners and
legislators to seriously consider reorganizing the industry, with limited
licenses and competition alongside regulated airfares that ensure predictable
returns to operators and robust funding mechanism to meet their needs. Our
economy is not ripe for unlimited competition, cut throat airline ticket prices
and bare bone market driven airline industry! We must learn to crawl before we
walk; not all theories on paper work out as planned upon practice.
the Central Bank of Nigeria working with the Ministry of Aviation should
immediately commence credit guarantee scheme to finance purchase of new
aircrafts by the few operators left under this heavily regulated regime. A
rigorous operator guideline that emphasizes rigorous safety record and
technical prequalification, robust financial wherewithal of sponsors and open
bids for the limited licenses will ensure only four to six operators that are
healthy emerge at the end of such restructuring. It will also ensure the
sponsors’ collateral can be linked by the CBN to such aircraft purchase
guarantee scheme to ensure Nigeria airlines can order
tens of new aircrafts much like their South East Asian counterparts to
service an ever growing (but more organized) domestic market.
a better organized aviation industry also requires brand new airports removed
from the madness of urbanization that made the Black Sunday incident a much
greater tragedy. What in heaven’s sake is an airport doing in such densely
populated area like Ikeja? Aircrafts should not fall on people’s homes! The
government of Nigeria and Lagos state seriously start doing something about
moving the airport to much saner location removed from the heart of Lagos. The
airport is old; it is an eyesore and should be decommissioned as new ones are
built at strategic locations away from the mess. The thousands of jobs created
by such effort will more than pay off for the investment, disregarding the
need, safety of travelers and image change such project will bring to Nigeria.
about response, the emergency response on Sunday left much to be desired and
this has been the case from time immemorial.
The lack of firefighters and first aid at the site of the incident
probably killed more people than should have actually died. Tales now abound of
at least one person walking out conscious in the first twenty minutes when that
aircraft did not explode. What if we had firefighters in every neighborhood?
What will it cost the government of Goodluck Jonathan to build 2000 fire
stations across Nigeria as clear evidence of democratic dividends? What will it
cost the opposition to begin a mass movement for such demand much like the fuel
subsidy protests and not yield till we ensure no other Dana Air tragedy occurs
again, without well trained fire fighters in place?
prevention and response however we have the deterrence factor that could ensure
the human dimensions to the Dana Air crash never occurred. When the accident
report is released, we are sure to find cases of technical and management
malfeasance. Cutting corners on aircraft maintenance, insisting clear
mechanical warnings of failure be ignored, taking to the air when the aircraft
clearly had given signs of giving away will be few amongst many. It is
important that the usual condemnation give way to prosecution this time around.
Cases of murder, manslaughter – voluntary or involuntary must be brought
against anyone involved.
will ensure that next, where the choice is between losing your job and going to
jail for life, the staff of airline operators in Nigeria would have learned the
lessons of this air crash incidence and err on the side of being a
whistleblower. Whistleblower funds should also be explored, to enable folks
working inside this airlines give early warning signs to regulators about the
management errors that brings this tragedy at regular intervals on our nation.
but not the least; the government must be commended for immediately withdrawing
the license of Dana Airlines. That is good enough deterrence for other airline
operators; fly a plane that crash at the risk of being put out of business
completely and immediately. We must go further though than these knee jerk
reactions though, and ensure complete investigation and appropriate actions to
prevent further loss of lives in our airline industry.
bless Nigeria and comfort the families of those whose lives were lost.